Uber launches wheelchair accessible service in D.C., after years of criticism

Posted on December 14, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After years of criticism (see release below) alleging it failed to serve people with disabilities, Uber is launching wheelchair-accessible van (WAV) service in Washington — three weeks before a deadline to submit to the D.C. Council its plan for expanding accessible transportation in the District, WAMU reported.

Rebuffed by taxi companies for months, Uber reached agreements with individual D.C. cabbies who rent WAVs to dispatch the rides through its Uber Taxi platform, the report said.

Instead of owning the WAVs, the ride-hailing app will access the vans with wheelchair-ramps already in circulation, driven by licensed Washington cab drivers, according to WAMU.

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United Spinal Calls Uber's New D.C. Wheelchair Taxi Initiative "Inadequate and Unsustainable"

United Spinal Association, today denounced Uber's new Washington, D.C. TAXI 'WHEELCHAIR' option that enables riders to request a wheelchair accessible taxi on-demand as "inadequate and unsustainable."

"There are two reasons why this is not an adequate solution; current demand for accessible taxi service in the District far exceeds supply and Uber is actively weakening the taxi industry — the wheelchair option source providing the few accessible vehicles available in DC," said Carol Tyson, Director of Disability Policy at United Spinal Association.

James Weisman, president/CEO of United Spinal Association, who helped draft significant portions of the Americans With Disabilities Act added, "Partnering with a diminishing taxi industry that Uber is actively seeking to undermine and force out of business, is not a sustainable solution."

United Spinal is the largest national disability-led nonprofit organization serving and representing the interests of more than a million Americans living with spinal cord injuries and disorders.

Tyson explained partnering with taxis does not increase access for the community and is not a long term solution. District's taxi drivers have seen a significant reduction in revenue as a result of Uber's presence in the market.

"Many of the District's accessible taxis sit on lots, while existing taxi drivers struggle to make a living wage," said Tyson.

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